Age-related eye diseases: an emerging challenge for public health professionals

Prev Chronic Dis. 2005 Jul;2(3):A17. Epub 2005 Jun 15.


In April 2004, The Eye Disease Prevalence Research Group published a series of articles that included age-specific estimates for the prevalence of low vision and blindness in whites, African Americans, and Hispanics living in the United States. Also included were age-, sex-, and ethnic-specific incidences of the following age-related eye diseases: diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. We reviewed the group's series of articles and highlighted key findings on the overall prevalence of and risk factors for age-related eye diseases, as well as opportunities to preserve and restore vision. We examined publications that show the public health impact of age-related eye diseases and the importance of projected increases in prevalence of low vision and blindness. Approximately 1 in 28 Americans aged older than 40 years is affected by low vision or blindness. Among community-dwelling adults, the prevalence of low vision and blindness increases dramatically with age in all racial and ethnic groups. Whites have higher rates of macular degeneration than African Americans, but glaucoma is more common among older African Americans. Between 2000 and 2020, the prevalence of blindness is expected to double. Age-related eye diseases are costly to treat, threaten the ability of older adults to live independently, and increase the risk for accidents and falls. To prevent vision loss and support rehabilitative services for people with low vision, it is imperative for the public health community to address the issue through surveillance, public education, and coordination of screening, examination, and treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Age Factors
  • Cataract / epidemiology
  • Cataract / ethnology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / epidemiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Eye Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Eye Diseases / ethnology
  • Glaucoma / epidemiology
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Intraocular Pressure
  • Macular Degeneration / epidemiology
  • Macular Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Public Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data